If you see lot more Cheetos, flaming Cheetos no less, in your local public high school this year, you can credit Hope Lozano.
This chemistry teacher from Austin, Texas, is holding court this week at Woodlawn High School in Baton Rouge. She is among several teachers sharing favorite lessons with about 450 fellow teachers during four days of training sponsored by the Dallas-based nonprofit National Math and Science Initiative, or NMSI.
“When you’re ready to light your Cheetos on fire, I’ll share some tips,” Lozano told the class.
They gathered Tuesday in Room 118 at Woodlawn High, four teachers to a table. The experiment was simple. Just above each Cheeto was an aluminum can filled with water that would be heated once the junk food item was set on fire. The change in the temperature of the water helped determine how much energy, or calories, was stored up in each one.
Lozano said the lesson is a hit with her own students.
“The kids wonder if the spicy tasting Cheetos have more energy,” she said.
Taylor Bunn, a program manager with NMSI, said the sessions are practical by design.
“Everything these teachers are doing are what the students are going to be doing,” Bunn said.
Ben Necaise oversees high schools for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system. A former high school history teacher, Necaise said he liked the hands-on nature of what he was seeing and said the NMSI trainers are getting good reviews.
“Everybody I’ve talked to has been blown away by the training they’ve received,” said Necaise.
ExxonMobil, through its charitable arm, is footing the bill for the training, which covers math, science as well as English instruction. The goal is to help high school students master these subjects so they can earn college credit via Advanced Placement courses, earn a college degree and ultimately help fill future jobs in science, technology, engineering or math, the STEM fields.
Ken Miller, ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge Area engineering services manager, noted one lesson in which teachers used motion detectors to measure time of an object in flight. In their plant operations, they measure the movement of liquids but it’s similar, he said.
“We use those all the time,” Miller said.
NMSI first came to Baton Rouge in summer 2015 and ExxonMobil plans to bring the organization back next year. ExxonMobil is also spending $13 million to expand Advanced Placement courses in the state and is employing NMSI’s services there as well.
Many of the teachers present this week at Woodlawn High either teach AP courses now or are being groomed to do so in the future. Yet another four-day training session is planned for some of these teachers July 11-15 at Baton Rouge Magnet High School.
In Room 104, trainer Kelly Bender was schooling several fellow biology teachers. They took small blocks of agar, a beet-colored gelatin, and dunked them in cups of vinegar. The lesson was meant mirror of how cells are formed and explore the relationship between surface area and the volume of a cell.
Jonathan Simmons, who teaches at West Feliciana High in St. Francisville, said students often are puzzled by why there are so many cells in the body, and lessons like this one helps.
“Kids wonder why we are not just one cell.”
He joked that he was “volun-told” to come to this week’s training, but he’s enjoying himself so far.
“If we’re teachers and it’s free training, we should go,” Simmons said.
Hope Lubbert, a teacher at Cohen College Prep in New Orleans, said she likes the practicality of the lessons. She said she prefers actually doing the experiments, rather than sitting through sleep-inducing lectures that are far too often the norm.
“These are all so hands on, engaging and available,” Lubbert said.
Rhonda Mathews, who teaches biology in Iberville Parish, had positive things to say about the training as well, but she rued that she had yet to take a break even though school finished up a month ago.
“I really need that vacation now,” Mathews said wearily.